Positive Provocation: Do I Mean to Offend?

“You really put yourself out there,” she chuckled.

It’s true.  I do, and quite intentionally so.  You see, it’s what I know.  It’s who I am.  It’s where I find myself most comfortable.  It’s a little thing I like to call authenticity.

I’ve been writing professionally now for over three years.  Between blog articles, ghost writing professional journal entries, working on my own publications, and just writing pieces of fiction, I find the writing process both cathartic and exceptionally liberating.  Again, it’s what I do and who I am.

I find a bit of amusement in the apprehension I sometimes glimpse in others’ eyes when they read my works.  Have I gone overboard in making a point about leadership or organizational culture?  Have I likely pissed off someone with a political comment or a politically incorrect jab?  Yes, yes, and, usually…..yes.

But you see, I don’t shy away from controversial topics.  In fact, those are the best to address.  It’s in controversy that we reveal the hypocrisy of leadership, the fallacies of organizational effectiveness, and from which we can begin to construct or reconstruct systems, processes, and structures that will strengthen the very fabric of our society and those organizations in which we live and operate.

“But don’t you worry about what clients might think?”

It’s a question I’m often asked.  And the honest answer…..no, I don’t.  First of all, if a client (or potential client) shies away from interactions because they may not hear what they want to hear, they are not a client I really want.  If they shy away, it’s a red flag to me that they are likely already unwilling and unable to make the types of changes necessary to truly improve their organizations.  They are probably more motivated by a desire to minimize their own leadership vulnerability than to maximize their potential….for potential requires humility.

Sometimes change requires an avalanche.  Now, there are multiple ways to create an avalanche.  Some may endeavor for decades to first build a suitable mountain on which to trigger an eventual landslide.  Others of us, however, seek out those existing overhangs, poised and ready for a precipitating event.  I have no desire to build the mountain.  Instead, I seek out those leaders and those organizations already poised (through mission, intent, and leadership strength) to make real, substantive, and positive changes.  It’s there that I can make the biggest difference, I feel.  It’s there that I am most alive.

Therefore, do I bend to the provocative at times?  Do I risk offense?  Yes, in fact I do.  It’s in those moments, when provocation and offense meet open-minded leadership that real, positive, helpful change begins.  So, if you’re not the type of leader who welcomes and encourages productive provocation, that’s just fine.  You’re likely not yet the type of leader who will foment substantive change.  And you’re definitely not the type of leader with whom I ought to be working.

One thought on “Positive Provocation: Do I Mean to Offend?

  1. Reblogged this on Leadership Musings of a Skeptical Positivist and commented:

    Was reminded today of this post from last year….It was one of my favorites to write, not because it was “in your face,” but because it was an attempt to help others understand the soul from which I work and live as a professor, a consultant, coach, or merely a writer. It reminds me of William Shedd’s famous quote, “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.”

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